Skip to main content

Pet insurance advice: Five things to look out for when shopping for the best policy

Pet Insurance
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It's important to keep your pet's health safe, and looking for pet insurance advice is a natural step in the process. 

Pet care can cost hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars, especially if there are any unfortunate situations that may require emergency vet visits. But pet insurance isn't a legal requirement - you don't need to get it to own a pet, however, you may want to. For many, it's a smart choice to keep costs down and to ensure your pet stays healthy, or that you have enough funds to support any major health care costs in case of extenuating circumstances. 

The most common pets insured are dogs and cats, as treating them can be very expensive, and they're the most popular domesticated animals. But it's not a bad idea to consider pet insurance for other pets, as well. 

There are quite literally hundreds of different pet insurance providers, so, finding the right policy can be an overwhelming process. It's even more confusing when pet insurance companies use use terms that aren’t obvious to new animal owners. That's what this article is for, to give you pet insurance advice and help you understand what exactly it is you're paying for. 

1. Is it a ‘lifetime’, ‘non lifetime’ or ‘accident only’ policy?

The most comprehensive type of cover for pets is lifetime coverage, which means your pet is covered for any illness or condition they may develop while the policy is active (as long as you keep renewing). If your dog develops diabetes, a lifetime pet insurance plan would cover it years after you initially took out a policy. 

Additionally, you also have ‘per condition’ and ‘annual’ limitations. It might be that your policy has a ‘per condition’ restriction of $2,000/£2,000. So if your dog develops diabetes, but also has to be treated for a broken leg, then the insurer will pay out a maximum of $2,000/£2,000 per condition. Alternatively, if the annual limit is $5,000/£5,000, for example, then any and all conditions up to that amount will be covered, with no per condition limit. 

The problem with comprehensive ‘lifetime’ policies is that they tend to be more expensive than ‘non-lifetime’ or ‘accident only’ policies. If you have a young and healthy pet, you might want to consider non-lifetime or accident-only policies if you’re struggling to afford a more expensive policy, but be aware that any conditions they develop will unlikely to be covered when you come to renew your policy – and could cost you much more in the long run.

2. Will it cover my pet for pre-existing conditions?

Unfortuantely, the vast majority of pet insurance policies will not cover your pet for any pre-existing condition or illness. You might find some that will cover pre-existing conditions for which treatment ended more than two years ago, so look out for these when shopping around. 

If you’ve got an older pet or one that has suffered from pre-existing conditions in the past, think long and hard before switching providers. It’s always worth phoning up an insurer to ask about pre-existing conditions, as some may be able to offer a bespoke policy that takes such a condition into account (though it’s likely to cost you more money). 

For those who feel that they must get new pet insurance or switch providers, it’s worth ensuring that you have a savings account on standby for any costs you might occur due to such exclusions.

Pet insurance advice

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. What kind of dental cover is included in the policy?

Take a close look at the type of dental cover that is included in your policy. Dogs and cats can accrue expensive dental bills, and sadly this isn’t always covered by your policy. Some policies will only include any dental work that is required as the result of an accident, while others will offer more comprehensive cover. Check the small print to be sure exactly what is and isn’t included. 

4. Does it have any exclusions I should be aware of?

It’s not just pre-existing conditions that might be excluded from your policy. There are also a number of common things that you’re unlikely to get an insurer to pay for – such as spaying or neutering your pet. You’re also unlikely to be covered for any complications or treatments that occur as a result of pregnancy in your animal. 

Routine costs, such as vaccinations, flea and worm treatments are extremely unlikely to be covered too. Pay close attention to the wording of your policy document to make sure you’ve got everything you need – and/or are prepared to meet the cost of such expenses that aren’t included.

An interesting one to look out for is cover for emergency boarding, if something happens to you that means you can’t look after your pet. Perhaps you get taken into hospital yourself, or a flight back from holiday is cancelled – good policies will include this cover as standard.

5. Does it provide me with third-party liability cover?

Generally, when we consider pet expenses we think about vet bills, toys, food, and even the insurance itself. 

Third-party liability cover is important, even if with any luck you won’t actually need it. It covers you should your pet cause damage to somebody else’s property, or cause injury to another person. 

It’s important to make sure your policy includes this, because some cases have been known to run into the hundreds of thousands in damages – which you’d be liable for should you be without insurance. 

Be aware that most insurance companies will ask you if your pet has had any potentially dangerous ‘incidents’ in the past, and may use this to exclude you from third-party cover – that’s why it’s important to get it from the beginning.

6. Should I shop around for the best pet insurance?

We know that trawling through insurance policies isn’t fun, but it really does pay to do your research and make sure you have the right policy for you. Read the fine print to make sure you're making a solid investment, and take into consideration both your current living/work situation and the current health of your pet. Pet insurance can be a life and money saver, you just have to make sure you've got the right one for your and your furbaby. 

Amy Davies

Amy Davies is a writer and photographer with more than ten years’ experience working in the media. She lives with her miniature dachshund, Lola, a rescue dog who is very much the boss.